Counter-Movement

I think it’s time for the church to accept that the battle for the culture has been lost.  The Moral Majority, the Tea Party, petitions, boycotts, and election drives have all failed to usher in the spiritual and moral revival for which well-intentioned people have hoped. 

We have opposed the movements that contradict our Christian convictions.  We have debated in the public arena.  We have organized.  We have gone the grass-roots route.  Yet, here we are.  Our President has handed down a directive to all public schools that students must be allowed to use the restroom that accords with their gender identity, regardless of their biological gender.

I do not wish to tackle the issue of transgenderism here.  I would rather reflect on where we go from here. 

For many years, the church in the United States has opposed movements such as “gay marriage” while attempting to convince individual homosexuals that we love them and have their best intentions at heart.  This is a pretty thin line to try to walk.

Perhaps it is time we quit being an opposition party and started instituting a counter-movement.  Rather than trying to bring the kingdom through political means, what if we actually gave Jesus a try? 

I don’t know if you have noticed, but in the New Testament, Jesus didn’t have much to say about the Roman government, even though it was rife with corruption and immorality.  This is not to say that Jesus’ teaching would have no political implications.  It is to say that Jesus did not put forth a political strategy.

 Rather than oppose Rome’s excesses, Jesus instituted a new movement.  This movement, called The Way, took place on an interpersonal level.  Redeemed and transformed people devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, loved their brothers and sisters in Christ, and trusted that the gospel had the power to alter the course of people around them.  They lived as good citizens of the Roman empire because they were citizens of a greater kingdom.

What might happen if we, the church, followers of The Way, refocused the energy and resources spent on political campaigns?  Instead of merely opposing cultural movements, what if we engaged in a counter-movement?  What if we spent our energy and resources on the proclamation of the gospel, on self-giving and compassionate service, and on relational investments in broken people?  What if we committed ourselves to the teaching of Scripture and to prayer?

God knows the condition of our culture.  He hates sin more than we do.  He is absolutely just.  He will ultimately set all things right.  He is also gracious and merciful.  His offer of salvation is available for those with whom we disagree.  He has chosen to extend his offer through the church.  In our efforts to oppose cultural movements, could it be that we have neglected to offer the power available for true cultural transformation? 

Even if we were to succeed in our opposition, we would have changed laws without changing hearts.  True and lasting change only comes through the opening of eyes to the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Battle Plan

10 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. [1]

 

Here, Paul is addressing philosophical ideas in Corinth that are opposed to Christ.  Paul is urging the Corinthians to, by the Spirit (divine power), do battle against the prevailing “wisdom” of the worldly Corinthian culture.  He instructs the Corinthians to engage cultural values with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The goal is to bring the culture into conformity to Christ, not by political or legal means, but by the Spirit working through the Gospel.

This is certainly applicable to the church’s engagement in her current environment.  There are obvious cultural movements that clearly contradict the truth of Scripture.  The church must be vigilant in her efforts to, by spiritual means, influence the culture toward Christ.

With that said, there is also opportunity to apply this text individually and personally.  In searching our hearts, I am certain that each of us will find beliefs, attitudes, and expectations that are born of our culture’s influence.  For example, when I have a craving for food, I am able to walk to the refrigerator and find a snack, whether I need it or not.  In the United States, we are able to satisfy our cravings instantly.

What if one has sexual desire?   Satisfaction may be attained with a few clicks of the mouse.  What if one desires the latest tech gadget on the market but lacks the funds to purchase it?  Swipe the credit card!  A business says, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas?”  Boycott them and post angry comments on Facebook!

When urges, cravings, and desires arise in our hearts and minds, we often respond reflexively, without evaluation.  We don’t give thought to the nature of the desire, or the potential outcome of satisfying the flesh’s demands.  Therefore, conquering the satisfaction reflex will take a great amount of discipline and Spirit-wrought effort.

So, here’s the ASIA plan.

1)       Acknowledge, as soon as possible, the rising of desire in the heart and mind.

2)      Submit the desire/thought to God.  Ask him to help you feel, evaluate and respond to the desire rightly.

3)      Interrogate your desire.  Why do I want this?  Do I really need to do this?  What will happen if I satisfy the desire?  What will happen if I don’t?  Does this desire accord with the truth of the gospel?

4)      Act accordingly.

 

Don’t expect this plan to go smoothly.  We have whole lifetimes of mindless surrender to the flesh.  This will take practice and perseverance.  We must learn to steer our desires in a Christ-ward direction rather than letting our desires steer us where they will.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 10:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.